by Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883)
Lo, an English mansion founded
In the elder James’s reign,
Quaint and stately, and surrounded
With a pastoral domain.
With well-timber’d lawn and gardens
And with many a pleasant mead,
Skirted by the lofty coverts
Where the hare and pheasant feed.
Flank’d it is with goodly stables,
Shelter’d by coeval trees
So it lifts its honest gables
Toward the distant German seas
Where it once discern’d the smoke
Of old sea-battles far away:
Saw victorious Nelson’s topmasts
Anchoring in Hollesley Bay.
But whatever storm might riot,
Cannon roar, and trumpet ring,
Still amid these meadows quiet
Did the yearly violet spring
Still Heaven’s starry hand suspended
That light balance of the dew,
That each night on earth descended,
And each morning rose anew
And the ancient house stood rearing
Undisturb’d her chimneys high,
And her gilded vanes still veering
Toward each quarter of the sky:
While like wave to wave succeeding
Through the world of joy and strife,
Household after household speeding
Handed on the torch of life.
First, sir Knight in ruff and doublet,
Arm in arm with stately dame
Then the Cavaliers indignant
For their monarch brought to shame
Languid beauties limn’d by Lely;
Full-wigg’d Justice of Queen Anne:
Tory squires who tippled freely;
And the modern Gentleman:
Here they lived, and here they greeted,
Maids and matrons, sons and sires,
Wandering in its walks, or seated
Round its hospitable fires:
Oft their silken dresses floated
Gleaming through the pleasure ground:
Oft dash’d by the scarlet-coated
Hunter, horse, and dappled hound.
Till the Bell that not in vain
Had summon’d them to weekly prayer,
Call’d them one by one again
To the church — and left them there!
They with all their loves and passions,
Compliment, and song, and jest,
Politics, and sports, and fashions,
Merged in everlasting rest!
So they pass — while thou, old Mansion,
Markest with unaltered face
How like the foliage of thy summers
Race of man succeeds to race.
To most thou stand’st a record sad,
But all the sunshine of the year
Could not make thine aspect glad
To one whose youth is buried here.
In thine ancient rooms and gardens
Buried — and his own no more
Than the youth of those old owners,
Dead two centuries before.
Unto him the fields around thee
Darken with the days gone by:
O’er the solemn woods that bound thee
Ancient sunsets seem to die.
Sighs the selfsame breeze of morning
Through the cypress as of old
Ever at the Spring’s returning
One same crocus breaks the mould.
Still though ‘scaping Time’s more savage
Handywork this pile appears,
It has not escaped the ravage
Of the undermining years.
And though each succeeding master,
Grumbling at the cost to pay,
Did with coat of paint and plaster
Hide the wrinkles of decay,
Yet the secret worm ne’er ceases,
Nor the mouse behind the wall;
Heart of oak will come to pieces,
And farewell to Bredfield Hall!